07:08 Thursday 2nd July 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: Our top story for Cambridgeshire this morning, “It’s too slow and it’s too messy.” That’s the verdict of some people in Peterborough on the work going on at the old District Hospital site off Thorpe Road. It’s been just under a year since it was announced the old PDH site would be turned into 350 new homes and a brand new primary school. Twelve months on, and many people not too happy with the progress. Our reporter Sophia Alipour has been speaking to some of them outside the old hospital remains.
PUBLIC ONE: It looks disgusting.
PUBLIC TWO: Yes it’s horrible from the outside.
SOPHIA ALIPOUR: What would you like to see built here instead?
PUBLIC ONE: Something nice to look at. Not something ugly. Maybe a homeless shelter, ‘cos I think homeless people live there.
PUBLIC TWO: Something like flats or houses, which is what it was meant to be.
SOPHIA ALIPOUR: Could I ask you to describe what the front of the old hospital currently looks like?
PUBLIC THREE: Half falling down and derelict.
PUBLIC FOUR: I’m surprised they haven’t done much more than they have.
PUBLIC FIVE: We work opposite the building. There was a little bit of noise a couple of weeks ago, but that’s been it. A slow process.
PUBLIC SIX: A mess. A complete mess. I wish they would get on with it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well Peterborough’s MP Stewart Jackson has told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire he’s happy with progress at the site, despite work apparently slowing down around the General Election. But Peterborough City councillor Ed Murphy has expressed his concerns, and he joins me now. So what do you think to the progress there Ed?
ED MURPHY: I’m not too concerned about the progress, which has been very shortcoming. The Hospital has now been there for fifty years. I’m looking at it at the moment. It’s still up, and it’s going to take some time to take it down, because it’s going to be quite a feat to take it down. What I’m concerned about is the current plans. The school hasn’t got adequate play facilities for the children, and they need to extend the site. And I think the developers are probably going to come in and try and go up more stories than they really should. So I’m hoping that the City Council do their utmost to ensure that development benefits local people, not just the bottom line profits of the developers.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So I was looking at this site on Google Maps last night, because when you drive past on Thorpe Road you might glance to your left, but you don’t always get a proper look, do you? And what surprised me was actually the size of this site, because 23 acres, it sounds quite big, but when you factor in a primary school, presumably some houses having gardens, car parking as well, maybe it’s not actually that big for 350 homes.
ED MURPHY: The density is worrying. We’ve already had a number of homes built on Midland Road, and yesterday evening actually at the West Ward Branch Labour Party meeting we had discussion about this area. There are already concerns about the traffic on Aldermans Drive, Mayors Walk in Peterborough, and we’re not sure whether the number of houses that are planned to be built there are going to exacerbate the problem or not. We think that they are. The other thing about the site is it is coming in from west Peterborough, it is a key location. And it would be nice to have something half decent there. It’s a wee bit like the plans to develop things in Cambridge. It’s always been the old aerodrome there would have been the place to develop, but it doesn’t seem to have happened. If you’re going to develop a prestigious site like that in Peterborough, let’s have something decent there. It’s near the town centre. What about extra care homes for the elderly? What about something more innovative than we normally get in Peterborough? And to try and cram in flats and houses there I think is ludicrous, when we’ve got all the land owned by the Government over at Castor, that was bought many many years ago for public housing.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Of course the site took quite a long time to sell, long after the old hospital closed. Do you feel that it got to a point where the previous owners of the site just wanted to make a sale, and it didn’t really matter who it went to?
ED MURPHY: Well I think they got £8 million for it, when it was valued at £17 million originally. The previous owners, it’s us, the NHS. It was the state that owned the site. Peterborough’s full of land and properties owned by the Government, or offshore companies that are managing them for them, that are empty. Your colleagues have been reporting about people squatting them and trying to put them to good use. We don’t seem to have the development co-ordinated in Peterborough. This site should have been part of a key programme to ensure we had proper cycle routes going into the new railway station, etcetera, etcetera. I think it’s been a mess from the beginning. Whether in fact the hospital should have closed is another question. And when it was closed I remember talking to a Junior Minister in the Government at the time about it being the new university site. Yes it has dragged on. We have had a recession. We’ve got other key sites in Peterborough like North Westgate that should have been developed ten years ago and haven’t; South Bank fifteen years ago that hasn’t; a lot of sites in Peterborough that have just not been developed.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Ed we’ll leave it there. Thank you for speaking to me this morning. That’s Peterborough City councillor Ed Murphy, actually looking out on the old PDH site as he spoke to me there.